Before I left for Africa, we were at the dentist and my mom was confessing to the receptionist (who had gone on a short-term mission trip to Ethiopia) her fears about reverse culture-shock and being disgusted with her own country upon her return. The receptionist simply replied, “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll get over it.”
And that is my biggest fear as our time in Malawi draws to a close. They’ve informed us that we might feel superior to people we call friends because of the trip and feel disconnected from the population, or that we will find ourselves pondering impossibly difficult questions that there are no easy answers to. Of course, those warnings are constantly present in my mind. But what firmly frightens me is that I will forget too soon that there are people living in malnutrition and poverty every day. That most of the children have no idea what to do with a crayon or any writing utensil whatsoever. That they are so hungry they will all but kill each other for a bag of 50-calorie corn puffs. That I will soon no longer remember that I stood there at a church packed to bursting with little bodies as they sang “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. WHERE?” at the top of their lungs with the biggest, whitest smiles I have ever seen.
God help me if I forget.
The entire time I’ve been here, I’ve had this strong feeling that this will not be the last time I am in Africa, and certainly not the last time I do a short-term mission.
But next time, I want to bring a few of you with me.
Every time I told someone that I was going on a mission trip, this was returned with an exclamation of surprise followed by a comment on my age. Why? Because people under the age of fourteen do not go on mission trips. That is not the norm. People tend to view your age of serving outside of your community (and unfortunately, even within it) to be between the ages of 25 and 56. If you’re under or over, it’s a Christmas miracle.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…but only if you’re between the ages of 25 and 56.”
Yeah, I don’t think that’s right. Let me fix that.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
There we go.
God never has and never will put an age restriction on your actions to glorify him. I’ve talked about this before, but now I feel it with a pressing urgency. As teens, we often think that our life doesn’t begin until after we’ve graduated college, and you get into the all-too-safe cycle of “School – Marriage – Have kids – Retire – Die”. That’s not necessarily a bad cycle. But it is safe and comfortable.
God doesn’t call us to be safe and comfortable.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16
God calls us to be adventurous. To get off of our couch and do something other than spending our free hours texting and on Twitter. He might be calling you to Africa, or to Thailand, or Iraq, or Sweden, or just in your own community where there are so many opportunities that might have escaped your line of vision. Nothing about being a Christian is safe, as recent events clearly show. They’re being beheaded in Iraq, heavily persecuted in Egypt, and tortured in China. And that could give us fear. Except we have God’s word to comfort us and to strengthen us.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. – 2 Timothy 1:6-12
Where is death’s victory? Where is hell’s sting? It was destroyed the day our Lord and Savior came back from the dead and gave us the gift of eternal life.
Our God is a God of power and love, and dang it, he’s the God of teenagers too.